Three Israeli Diplomats Risk Dismissal Over Comments

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

An Israeli ambassador and two other diplomats face possible dismissal for publishing posts critical of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his testy relationship with the White House, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

The offending comments came as Netanyahu, who is seeking a fourth term in office, fends off criticism at home and abroad over his plans to deliver a speech to the U.S. Congress on March 3, two weeks before Israeli elections.

The White House has objected to the speech, which is expected to be critical of U.S. policy on Iran.

Yigal Caspi, the Israeli envoy to Switzerland, had quoted remarks by journalists accusing Netanyahu of endangering already shaky relations with Washington. Caspi, has been suspended and recalled to Israel.

So did two other diplomats: Assaf Moran, a political officer at Israel’s embassy in India, and Yaron Gamburg, a staffer at the Foreign Ministry in Yerushalayim.

Moran had accused Netanyahu of ducking any discussion of social issues, while Gamburg wrote: “What is happening to our relations with the United States is madness.”

Caspi had also quoted a journalist describing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as high-handed.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the postings as genuine and said the diplomats had been summoned for disciplinary hearings and could be fired. None of the three could immediately be reached for comment.

Another Israeli official said he knew of no involvement by Netanyahu in the matter.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi described the comments as “outrageous” and likened the diplomats to renegade soldiers.

“They are, in essence, warriors for Israel in the diplomatic arena, against anti-Semitism, against Palestinian incitement, against all kinds of threats, [who] suddenly turned their weapons against their commanders, the elected leaders of Israel,” Hanegbi told Israel Radio.

“These people must identify with all of the state’s positions, regardless of politics. If they cannot, they should resign.”